Africa: Freedom Songs Sung to a Climate Change Tune

Durban — “This land belongs to women, they will never tire!” Chanted in Zulu, this South African freedom song from the anti-apartheid struggle was reworked into a protest song against climate change at the Rural Women’s Assembly, a side event at the COP17 conference – the 17th UN gathering on climate change.

The forum aimed to raise awareness and offer a platform for networking and information-sharing for rural women to address the issues they face in their rural areas.
Some 1,000 women from Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Kenya Tanzania and South Africa came together to voice their concerns and learn how to adapt to the effect that climate change is having on their lives. Most of these women are involved in farming to feed their families and sell their crops.

Land grabs are a major cause for concern for Rebecca Gomes, one of the delegates from Mozambique’s Forum for Rural Women. “Peasants have to fight because we are always losing land to the rich,” said Gomes, who charged that multinational corporations then plant crops they do not eat. She says these crops are destroying her community’s culture and traditions.

Yvonne Yanez from Oilwatch in Ecuador encouraged women to stand together to defend their land. “Thank you for your history of fighting, it inspired us during our own struggles,” said Yanez in pledging solidarity with the southern African women. “The rich have the power but we have the reason.”

The Rural Women’s Assembly met during at a side event of the COP17 talks in Durban and staged a march to get the attention of Africa’s governments.

The different organizations each came with different songs, but their message was the same: a call for climate justice. African governments were criticized for their complacency in addressing climate change. “Africa is burning, and our countries are not playing their role and saying no to the polluters,” said Mercia Andrews, executive director of the South African Trust for Community Outreach and Education. Swaziland delegate Sebenzile Nxumalo voiced her appreciation for the opportunity to gather and speak freely without a police presence, explaining the struggle for land and financial assistance is “even more difficult in a country that does not recognize women as equals”.

The women’s expectations for the COP 17 talks are for binding agreements – with penalties for violations, and for those responsible for emissions that cause climate change to be held accountable. “This is the most important struggle of our lives and we have little time,” said farmer Lidy Macpil, who travelled to the Durban conference from the Philippines.

Posted by on Feb 11 2012. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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